1. Pat Patterson - Lead United Air Lines from the 1930s to the 1960s, and built it into a profitable, extremely successful operation. Not only that, but Pat Patterson's United had class, distinction and refinement, and was a cut above most airlines in terms of service and comfort. Pat Patterson was a man of extreme ethics. He refused to pack passengers in like Sardine, and wouldn't order the 707 with the initial narrow fuselage as it would have been too cramped in a 3+3 configuration-then he turned around and configured his DC-8 fleet in 2+3. Not wanting his stewardesses to be thought of as barmaids, he provided free alcoholic beverages but set a limit of two per passenger. United under his leadership became the largest airline in America following the takeover of Capital in 1961, was responsible for enormous increases in Hawaiian tourism, and made many other contributions to the United States and to the economy. The Friendly Skies were perhaps never as friendly as under Patterson, a CEO who cared about his employees AND
his customers, had impeccable moral standards and who also happened to be darn good at what he did.
2. Bob Six - Dashing and flamboyant CEO of Continental, who took on the major airlines with a much smaller fleet of aircraft and won, while at the same time setting new standards in terms of service. He ran a tight ship, treated his employees well, and turned CO
from a tiny regional airline into one of the largest airlines in the United States. He was even responsible for the name of the airline, Continental, as when he initially took charge it was known as Varney Speed Lines, Southern Division (good thing he changed it - imagine flying on a Varney Speed Lines Southern Division 777 from Newark to Europe).
3. Robert Crandall - Though his morals weren't on a level with those of Pat Patterson, he was undeniably one of the most successful, and perhaps one of the most ruthless airline CEOs in history. One thing is for sure, without Crandall, AA
would not be where it is today. I'll bet the executives at TWA never stopped kicking themselves for passing him up on a promotion.